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I ask this question more out of curiosity rather than any need for the answer. I have read many questions on this site that relate to Journal impact factors in relation to how that may affect where to publish etc.

Now I am wondering is there a oversight body that regulates the area?

I was thinking along the lines of something like the International Organization for Standardization that regulates the ISO standards across the world.

Specifically is there an independent body (either commercial or not for profit) that sets the standards for impact factors and audits them so as that one impact factor can be compared with another with the knowledge that they are calculated in the same way?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 29 down vote accepted

No.

Academic publishing is not regulated by any oversight body. There is not even a universal standard for what constitutes a publication.

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...or a universal standard for how to calculate an impact factor. –  vadim123 May 2 at 13:50
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Such metrics are not unlike rating agencies for economy, aren't they? –  Raphael May 3 at 9:25
    
@JeffE While you're answer raised a valid point about what is a publication in my question I was interested in the independence/standardisation and the ability to audit of Impact factors rather than oversight of all Academic publishing. I've tried to edit my question to better clarify this. –  gman May 6 at 11:31
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Sure, but the definition of impact factor relies in turn on the definition of "publication", since only "publications" can include citations that actually count. –  JeffE May 7 at 2:47
    
@JeffE Thanks, didn't know that. Who (if anyone) has the power to define was is a publication is for the purpose of calculating impact factors? Can some journals have an impact factors and others not? –  gman May 7 at 16:05

There's multiple questions contained within your question that have different answers.

Is there independent oversight of Journal Impact Factors? ... Now I am wondering is there a oversight body that regulates the area?

This depends on what you mean by "independent". If you mean an official unbiased centralised not-for-profit professional organisation, then the best answer is probably no.

But ...

Specifically is there a body that sets the standards for impact factors and audits them so as that one impact factor can be compared with another with the knowledge that they are calculated in the same way?

The answer to this part is definitively yes. The notion of an impact factor (<- a recognised term of art) was invented by the founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), Eugene Garfield. The impact factor of journals has been computed by ISI since 1975 using a prescribed methodology.

In terms of comparability, the impact factor is specifically the average number of citations per publication in the journal, over a fixed time span (the two years previous, or five years for 5 year impact). Citations are collected from the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) index.

And so if you are a journal editor and you wish to have an impact factor, you need to apply to ISI (now owned by Thompson Reuters). They oversee the computation of the official Impact Factor metrics in common use today, as publicised on various journal websites.

In fact, Thompson Reuters (through ISI) own the concept of Impact Factor for journals and copyright said metrics.

So for sure there is a body "that sets the standards for impact factors and audits them so as that one impact factor can be compared with another with the knowledge that they are calculated in the same way". But I would hesitate to call Thompson ISI an independent body.


This answer is not intended to promote the idea of an Impact Factor, but merely to indicate its oversight, regulation and history as per the question.

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To the downvoter: how can I improve my answer? –  badroit May 3 at 1:38
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ISI/Thompson Reuters is NOT independent. They get regularly slammed for playing with what they consider an "article" ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1475651 and I think there are issues of reproducibility. –  StrongBad May 3 at 8:02
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There is not a body that audits impact factor calculations. You claim there is but give no citation. Obviously, Thompson cannot be said to audit itself. –  David Ketcheson May 3 at 12:06
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I state in my answer: "This depends on what you mean by "independent". If you mean an official unbiased centralised not-for-profit professional organisation, then the best answer is probably no." But there very clearly is a body "that sets the standards for impact factors and audits them so as that one impact factor can be compared with another with the knowledge that they are calculated in the same way" ... that body is the ISI. I don't understand the downvotes in that I still feel I answered the question as given. –  badroit May 3 at 18:15

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